I don't think I'm getting hung up on the numbers.
In an absolute sense, the 5500K means very little to me. In a relative sense, I'd like to be working with the same set of numbers in both the camera and Lightroom without having to apply some sort of conversion algorithm.
Imagine working with files where the camera was set to a specific f stop and LR reported a T stop; or where the capture time was reported by the camera, using a solar calendar and it was called out in LR using a lunar calendar.
For the sake of establishing some baseline figures and making consistent adjustments in the camera and/or LR, the way that white balance is reported ought to be similar.
To compute color-balance, there is an intermediate color-space involved and perhaps lookup tables to speed up the computation. Adobe wouldn’t know what Nikon is doing and wouldn’t necessarily care because Adobe tries to get consistent results across 100+ cameras not just ones from a particular manufacturer so the chance that Adobe and Nikon would come up with different numbers is very high.
Here is a research-paper where human preferences to four different intermediate color-spaces are investigated:
In the Mathematics of Color Balance section of the White-Balance Wikipedia page, you’ll see some of the different methods:
Finally, Adobe color-profiles are dual-illuminant, and this probably makes the color-temperature the result of an interpolation of two different color-profiles.
I usually see different WB numbers for camera, Adobe-profiles, or my own profiles computed from a Color Checker using Adobe’s DNG Profile Editor.
The important thing is that the neutral-colors look neutral even if the reverse-engineered color-temperature and tint aren’t the same numbers.
Let me provide a better answer, straight from the LR team:
"Lightroom will match the appearance of neutral colors, not the numbers. Because Lightroom (and ACR) interpret sensors differently than the camera manufacturer, and numeric WB values are a function of that interpretation, it's not possible to match both appearance and numeric values."
Dave Reichert wrote:
I don't think I'm getting hung up on the numbers.
In an absolute sense, the 5500K means very little to me.
Exactly! Any Kelvin value is a range of colors. While D50 is an exact color, 5000K is a slew of possible colors ranging from magenta to green on an axis of the black body curve (lines of correlated color temp seen below). So one software’s specification or understanding of CCT 5000K and another can be different visually. Dave’s spot on, don’t get caught up in the numbers because they vary.
Thank you all for your replies. (To avoid confusion, I'm the original poster - I'm not sure why I've got two different accounts/identities - I'll have to look into that later.)
Based on the "information" I got from a prior forum search, I was under the impression that LR was getting its numbers from metadata carried by the .NEF file. As a result, I couldn't understand why they were different than what I had set in camera. The mismatch wasn't making any sense to me.
I think I'm getting a handle on why that's happening now, and I'll have to adjust my workflow accordingly. The camera is new to me - I've had it for two days now, and I'm trying to get all my baseline settings in order. With my prior workhorse camera (a Kodak SLR/n) I set my WB in camera to Sunny, and it showed up as 5500K in LR, with no tint adjustment. If I chose to make adjustments to the file in LR, I worked from that consistent basic setting, which seemed to me to yield an accurate representation of noon light, here in New Mexico.
I never use Auto White Balance. I choose rather to set the camera to a (subjectively) neutral daylight setting and let each exposure reflect the difference from that setting, rather than nullifying the character of light by seeking a neutral white balance in every scene. I don't do product photography, or much portraiture - most of my work would loosely fall under the category of "landscape". Therefore, I prefer it when overcast looks bluer, and the "golden hours" truly look golden. That wierd green light at the front of an approaching storm retains all its weird greeness. Moonlight looks cold, and incandescent light retains its warm glow.
The long and the short of it is that I'l have to play around and create a custom setting in the D800 that will come close to what I've become used to in the Kodak. I'm sure it won't be a big deal, but I won't be able to just punch in a few numbers and expect it to work. ;-)
So on import you want all your photos so have a 5500K 0 WB in LR like you did with your old camera? Then all you have to do is set LR to have that as it’s default WB, or create a Develop preset with WB 5500K0 and use that as your import preset. The only reason it matters what your camera is set to is that you are using the LR factory default of As Shot so LR interprets the camera’s gray-point values into a WB. The only thing that is affected by your camera’s setting is the WB of the embedded JPG preview that the camera shows as you review your photos, or that you see when you import photos before LR re-renders things.
If seeing this spectrum of colors on your camera’s display and on the Import grid is important, then so you need your camera’s custom WB to show up in LR as 5500K +0 then take a sequence of shots where you vary the WB slightly in your camera maybe by 50K on each one, and keeping track of what you set it to for each one, and find the one that LR interprets most closely as 5500K +0.
I used to do what I think you’re saying you do, have my camera set to the same custom WB for everything and have the tungsten shots look very orange and my twilight shots look very blue and other outdoor shots vary between orange and blue, and then adjust my WB in LR to how I wanted it. Since I always was needing to adjust my WB in LR, I decided to get a little help from my camera, and now I have it set to AWB so I have the added benefit of the camera’s intelligence in guessing what looks good. I still synchronize my various photos in a particular lighting scenario to the same WB after deciding what looks best, but sometimes I find the camera does a better job of guessing than I did and I sync to a custom-WB that is equivalent to what it picked for its AWB of one of the shots instead of always having to play with the WB to figure out what I want. Having my camera set to AWB doesn’t preclude me from having the same WB for all my photos in LR and seeing which ones are warmer or cooler than others, but not having my camera set to AWB removes the camera’s intelligence as a suggested WB.
"Then all you have to do is set LR to have that as it’s default WB, or create a Develop preset with WB 5500K0 and use that as your import preset."
That should hve been obvious to me... I guess I was over-thinking the issue.
The preview JPEGs don't mean anything to me - close enough is good enough. I never judge color on the camera's LCD, and I always shoot RAW.
"I used to do what I think you’re saying you do..."
You've got it. For outdoor shots, I'll stick to a fixed WB, but I'll try AWB for indoors. I'm guessing the AWB technology has improved quite a bit since my old Kodak was made...
Check out the July/August issue of Photoshop User, "Create Custom White Balance Presets For Any Camera". It's an excellent article on how to "harmonize" your own camera's white balance settings with those in ACR and Lightroom. There's an interesting table in this article that shows the default Temp/Tint settings in ACR/Lightroom vs. 3 Nikon models and 2 Canon models. None of the camera specs. match Adobe's. The article describes a method to resolve that. By the way, this is not about creating a truly custom white balance for a unique lighting situation, although that is also discussed in a sidebar.